With snowy conditions covering over half the United States, these can be tricky times for professional truck drivers. It is no secret that winter weather conditions provide unique challenges for truck drivers, even those with million-mile safety records. No matter the season, shippers have the same expectations that freight hauls will be delivered on-time. Slower speeds, reduced visibility and poor road conditions can put a serious crimp in this paradigm.
Yet, there are two factors that can ensure truck drivers get their freight safely from one place to another during the hazardous winter driving conditions. The two keys to winter operation are both good planning and persistent patience.
Professional truck drivers must understand that more time must be baked into the equation when winter storms are blanketing the roads. They must also do their best to plan around severe storms or unfortunate weather events. Even more, patience means not trying to rush just because road conditions are causing delays. If there is anything that could result in an unfortunate accident, it is trying to rush when conditions are unsafe.
Truck drivers must also be extra vigilant in watching for other drivers who may not know how to handle the rough winter road conditions. Whether it be leaving extra space ahead or behind the truck, stopping distances are critical when operating on wet or icy roadways.
Dispatchers must also work with truck drivers to ensure there are alternative routes ready when rough winter conditions make certain roadways unsafe. It is critical that advance research is done when heavy snow or ice is hampering your usual route. Substitute parking locations should also be part of the equation when researching how to avoid hazardous winter weather.
Trucking companies who do not live by the ethos of proper patience and planning find themselves in a bind should the worst happen. It is also important that truck drivers act on the spot when weather conditions which were not on the company weather report suddenly make road conditions too dangerous. Many truck drivers use real-time weather map apps or advanced radar systems tied to tablets or smartphones to stay ahead of the game.
It is also important to consider others who may be operating on the roadways and trying to clear the road of snow or debris. Law enforcement shares the same goal of safe operation on the nation’s roads and highways during winter. Take snow plow drivers as one example. Snow plow operators work in the most dangerous winter conditions, often with little-to-no visibility. When a truck driver sees a snow plow on the road, it is of utmost importance to give them proper space, distance, and patience to do their job.
Providing extra space when operating around snow plows is important because snow plows have wing blades that can extend 10 – 12 feet out from the side of their vehicle. Consider that is the equivalent of a full traffic lane. While these blades often have blinking lights to signal where they are, difficult visibility conditions can make it extra hard to see those lights. Allowing for safe distance and slow driving can make the difference between getting your load safely to the receiver or winding up in an accident, or worse.
Patience is a virtue, especially during winter driving. Never be tempted to pass in unsafe conditions or speed to get around an obstacle when the conditions are snowy or icy. Safe winter driving is key to maintaining a safe record. Don’t let the icy conditions blanketing half the U.S. lull you into a rushed sense of impatience or bad planning.